Along the railroad tracks and up on the main street, Pachacútec, Aguas Calientes  is awash with pizzerias and their street salespeople. While quality has definitely risen in the last few years, you must still be cautious and choose carefully—many are not as good a bargain (nor as clean) as advertised.
For something different, try The Tree House (Huanacaure 180, in the Rupa Wasi hotel, tel. 084/21-1101, www.rupawasitreehouse.com.pe , 5:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 7–11 p.m. daily). The wooden ecological restaurant brings a fine selection of wines and pisco to accompany its high-quality but affordable food. Try the delicious trout coated in quinoa or the Thai chicken. They can also provide a yummy box lunch for your visit to Machu Picchu .
The strangely named Paraquachayoc (Pachacútec s/n, tel. 084/21-1278, 8 a.m.–10 p.m.) has a small trout farm out the back of the restaurant with over 5,000 trout at a time. Owners Victor and Rosemary prepare the fresh trout in an open kitchen overlooking the Río Aguas Calientes. Their specialty is a large, beautifully presented plate of oven-baked trout with bacon and spinach. Since Victor trained at the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, you can sit back and expect something special.
The French-Peruvian–owned Indio Feliz (Lloque Yupanqui Lote 4 M-12, tel. 084/21-1090, noon–4 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$9) serves up some of the best food in town, best described as Peruvian cuisine with French touches, served in American portions. The two-story restaurant has a peaceful, homey feel, with tables in a sunny upstairs dining room. The four-course set menu is huge and, when we were there, included quiche lorraine, sopa criolla, lemon or garlic trout, ginger chicken, and apple pie. There is so much food, in fact, that a single meal can be divided for two people, something the kitchen is happy to do. There is real espresso, calla lilies on all the tables, and opera music in the background.
Pueblo Viejo (Pachacútec s/n, tel. 084/21-1193, www.grupointi.com , 10 a.m.–11 p.m., US$3–6) is at the bottom of the restaurant row and has a cozy atmosphere, including live music and a fireplace. There is a huge range of food here, from vegetarian and pizza to grilled meats. There are affordable lunchtime menus here as well.
If you like this place, check out Toto’s House (tel. 084/22-4179, www.grupointi.com , 9 a.m.–11 p.m.), a more upscale restaurant on the tracks nearby with an US$20 lunch buffet and river views.
Farther down the track, El Toldo (Av. Imperio de los Incas 147, tel. 084/21-1363, toldosrestaurant [at] yahoo [dot] com, 10 a.m.–10 p.m., US$8–10) also specializes in pizzas and has a good breakfast for US$7.
Pachamama (Av. Imperio de los Incas 145, tel. 084/21-1141, 9 a.m.–9 p.m., US$8–10) has been part of Aguas Calientes for many years. It offers pizzas, main courses, good desserts, and is a great place for groups.
And yet another restaurant on the tracks, El Kintu (Av. Pachacútec 150, tel. 084/21-1336, mapijose [at] gmail [dot] com, 8 a.m.–10 p.m., US$6–10) is an interesting restaurant with an Inca decor, open kitchen, and barbecue. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and is a perfect place to hang out for a drink. There’s also a small hostel attached to the restaurant.
Last but not least is the bar at the hot springs, Paqcha Tarinakuy. Carlos, the owner, has been here for 13 years and makes one of the best pisco sours in Peru. Hop into the relaxing baths; when you wish for a drink, signal by waving your hands in the air, and the waiters will come and serve you.
Restaurant-Pizzeria Inka Wasi (Pachacútec 112, tel. 084/21-1010, www.inkawasirestaurant.com , 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1–10 p.m. Sun., US$10) offers a US$13 buffet but also serves trout, chicken brochettes, ceviche, pastas, pizza, and their specialty dish—guinea pig.
Along Pachacútec, other recommended places include Pizzeria Keros (Pachacútec 116, tel. 084/21-1374, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. daily), which also serves Peruvian dishes like guinea pig and grilled alpaca, and Chez Maggy (Pachacútec 156, tel. 084/21-1006, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. and 6–11 p.m. daily, US$7–10). Along with its sister restaurants throughout the country, Chez Maggy has an established reputation for great pastas and wood-fired pizzas.
One place to avoid is the pizzeria Big Brother, as there have been several reports of food poisoning.
Excellent vegetarian food is available at Govinda (Pachacútec 20, tel. 084/975-3993, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), which has a variety of lunch menus for US$2–8.
The biggest minimarket is El Pueblo, next to the main market. With juices, yogurts, fresh bread, deli meats, and cheeses, it’s a good place to put together a picnic. Various hotels and restaurants prepare box lunches, including Gringo Bill’s, Rupi Wasi, La Cabana, and Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.